Popular film and emotional response


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Recapping emotional response to popular film

Popular film and emotional response

  1. 1. Popular Film and Emotional Response
  2. 2. Spectatorship• Spectatorship is primarily concerned with the way the individual is positioned between projector and screen in a darkened space.• Although the spectator is singular, a figure alone before the screen, spectatorship studies tries to generalise about how all spectators behave.
  3. 3. Questions for consideration• How does film work to generate emotion, and here the emphasis may be on relatively straightforward issues like the use of mise-en- scene, staging and music or more complex issues of identification and spectator alignment with particular characters?
  4. 4. Questions for consideration• How far does the spectator feel consciously manipulated by a film and, by contrast, how far does the emotional power of a film derive from a combination of elements which are difficult to pin down?
  5. 5. Questions for consideration• How far does the emotional impact of the film derive from contextual knowledge - in this case, our ability to respond to the film in the gap between fictional representation and historical fact?
  6. 6. affect/effect—a quick use of English reminder!Firstly, the words you are familiar with:• an effect (noun) - the effect of the film was overpowering• to affect (verb) - the film affected me deeply.The less common uses:• an affect (noun) - a specialist psychological term for ‘emotion’, which you may well come across in your research. (Can also be used as an adjective: the ‘affective aspect’ of a film is thus its emotional aspect.)• to effect - to bring about/put into practice. The new teacher effected several changes.
  7. 7. Physiological / Psychological• The emotion of fear created in the presence of a screen displaying a sequence of images in a horror film may manifest in a bodily, or physiological way (there may be a start, a jump, a scream, a cold sweat, increased heart rate), but there will also be a mental or psychological sensation – perhaps terror.• The feeling may be fleeting or stay with us a few hours, days or longer.
  8. 8. What is an emotion?• We think of an emotion as something that moves us— a feeling we experience. Indeed, the word ‘emotion’ comes from the Latin word for ‘moving’. – A mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes; – A feeling: the emotions of joy, sorrow, reverence, hate, and love.
  9. 9. Contextual Knowledge• Emotions are affected by our wider experiences, by what we know. Knowledge and emotion are sometimes thought of as opposites but they are in fact interrelated.• Put formally: emotional experience is mediated by what we know.• There is frequently a tension between the emotions we experience when watching a film (Eden Lake) and what we know (moral panic in press over teenagers).
  10. 10. Emotional response and emotional involvement• Filmmakers aim to draw us into the narrative of films: they do that in the way they structure the narrative—both in terms of the overall structure of the film (beginning, middle and end/3 acts/ equilibrium, disequilibrium and restoration of that equilibrium) and in the way they construct the narrative shot by shot through editing.Describe how narrative and editing draw us into the three films we have studied?
  11. 11. Emotional response and emotional involvement• An important feature of the narrative are the characters: in mainstream films, characters are frequently cast in terms of the characters we like and those we don’t (crudely: heroes and villains).• We are encouraged to identify with characters, to become emotionally involved with them, to feel as they do.How are we encouraged to identify with characters in the films we have studied?
  12. 12. Alignment• That process of identification is sometimes called alignment and refers to the way spectators are encouraged—through macro and micro features—to relate to characters’ emotions as well as to adopt their points of view.• The emotional impact of a film frequently depends on spectator alignment with central characters.• What tools do film makers use to align us?
  13. 13. Identify key moments where the centralcharacter(s) appear in a film you are studying.Explore the central character of the film you are studying• How are you encouraged to identify with that character?• Does the star status of the actor playing the character —and thus how the character is shot—affect your response?• What role does the performance of the actor play in shaping your emotional response?
  14. 14. Stuart Hall and Audience Positioning• Another way of describing that process is by using Stuart Hall’s term: positioning. He demonstrated how media creators, including filmmakers, encourage us to respond in particular ways to what we see.• Micro and macro features like camerawork, editing, mise-en-scene, music, narrative construction, genre etc. position spectators: they encourage us to take up a particular position’ – a particular point of view—to what we see.• He emphasised the points of view—the attitudes and values—we are encouraged to adopt towards what we see.
  15. 15. How can we apply these readings to texts we have studied?• a preferred reading, where spectators accept the response and point of view that filmmakers intended• a negotiated reading, where spectators only partially accept the response and point of view filmmakers intended (modifying it with views of their own, treating it with some scepticism).• an oppositional reading, where spectators reject the response and point of view filmmakers intended
  16. 16. Positioning: do all spectators respond in the same way?• Following Stuart Hall’s ideas about positioning, it follows that spectators do not necessarily respond in the same way to films — people’s social and cultural background influences the way they will respond.• How might different audiences respond to the 3 texts we have studied, referring to preferred, negotiated and oppositional positions?
  17. 17. Cultural Background• This opens out other perspectives: does gender or ethnicity play a significant role in spectators’ emotional responses?• Are the pleasures offered ‘male’ or ‘female’ and what might this mean? (Mulvey)• In addition, you might ask yourself whether as an individual spectator you respond in quite individual ways to what you see.
  18. 18. Contradictory Responses• All this goes towards explaining how film, particularly popular film, can produce contradictory emotions for spectators.• Raises questions like: why do we cry or laugh or hold our breath or wince at key moments in our viewing of popular films.• However, as often as one might want to argue for a clear cause/effect relationship between film device and response, there will also be the need to explore and question these assumptions from a spectator perspective.
  19. 19. Stage 1—exploring how and why films create emotion in spectators• Exploring extracts which highlight in an obvious way how micro features produce emotional responses.• Explore the role of macro features (genre, narrative, character identification/alignment).• Raising issues about how far spectators’ emotional responses are ‘constructed’ and how far spectators are positioned.• Do all spectators respond in the same way? Do spectators respond differently in different circumstances?
  20. 20. Stage 2—the more challenging issues• Exploring more complex, contradictory emotional responses and the reasons for them—micro and macro factors, cultural factors influencing response & reception, conditions of viewing?• Debating why film is arguably an ‘emotional’ medium—raising issues through the emotional?
  21. 21. • Explore how more complex, contradictory emotional responses are produced & the factors affecting those responses• E.g. the postmodern emphasis on hybridity leading to an experience of emotion at same time as an awareness of the way your responses are being played with...Inception• Contradictory emotions created by such films as Eden Lake where there is arguably a tension between the emotions we experience and the issues they raise.• Recognising that emotional responses are mediated by context
  22. 22. Emotions• Emotions appear to be involuntary— something which happens to us. They are nevertheless caused by something.• What are the factors that contribute to Emotional Contagion as described by Amy Coplan in her analysis of Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998)?
  23. 23. Research - Emotional Contagion• Based on automatic and involuntary processes, spectators’ experiences of emotional contagion will be virtually identical to real world experiences of emotional contagion.• ‘The tendency to automatically mimic and synchronize expressions, vocalizations, postures, and movements with those of another person, and, consequently, to converge emotionally’ (discussed by Amy Coplan)
  24. 24. Emotional Contagion• Incidents that have been found to reliably evoke such mimicry include pain, laughter, smiling, affection, embarrassment, discomfort, disgust, facing a thrown projectile, ducking away from being hit, stuttering, word-finding, and succeeding and failing at a timed task.
  25. 25. Most important is attention:• Filmmakers must focus spectators’ attention on characters’ facial expressions in order to elicit contagion responses.• They can do this through the use of: – extreme close-ups, – shallow focus, – various point-of-view structures, – progressively closer shots of a character’s face and expressions.• These techniques do not work, however, unless the duration of the shot of the character’s facial expression is long enough.
  26. 26. COMT gene research• “Scientists say different versions of a single gene linked to feelings of anxiety can explain the way in which some people simply cannot abide such movies, while others enjoy the suspense and the gore. “ • University of Bonn in Germany
  27. 27. How to use in exam response?• How can we use these theories in our responses? – Look at the past exam questions.